Monthly Archives: February 2011

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany

Collect of the Day
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-10
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34

Messsage: “The Heart of the Kingdom” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
For audio, follow this link.

Bonus materials:
Two books mentioned in this week’s sermon (clickable pics below)…

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Saint Matthias

Psalm 15
Acts 1:15-26
Philipians 3:13-21
John 15:1, 6-16

A Reflection
I love this particular image of St. Matthias, because he has his hands extended with palms up and cupped, the posture of those willing to receive whatever God has for them – whether Bread of Life or dirty feet needing washed – in openness, humility, and expectancy (not to mention that it’s the posture we take when receiving Communion each week).  Truly (and literally), this is the picture of a saint.

The account of the choosing of Matthias is a moving one.  It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the way that Peter reads the Psalms in a way that most of us wouldn’t think of reading the Bible, and we may find ourselves wondering what it means that the Church “cast lots” to discern God’s will for its leadership.  Those details, however, while perhaps worth our time at some other time, should not distract us from what is at work here in the early (so early that we might even call it a pre-Church, because the Spirit had not yet been poured out) Church.

Let’s set the scene.  In the preceding verses, Jesus has just told his followers to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit and then ascended “out of their sight” into heaven.  Those dazed folks (the disciples, Mary, several women, Jesus’ “brothers”, and apparently several unnamed others, for a total of about 120) returned to Jerusalem together “devoting themselves to prayer” but surely wondering just who or what the Holy Spirit was and how soon Jesus would come back out of the clouds to set up his kingdom on earth.

Truly, if we know that Spirit means ‘Breath’ (and in Greek it does), this community is a newly born and helpless infant, and it’s not clear yet if it will survive, let alone thrive.  The time between the Ascension and Pentecost (and in the church calendar, all the time is happening all the time, including Ascension and Pentecost this day in Epiphany) is the time waiting for a newborn to draw its own first breaths of outside air, and those brief moments seem to be taking weeks.  When we are remembering Matthias, that is what we are remembering.

Here, God, by leading the selection of Matthias by the believers, restores the believers’ hope that God is with them, has not and will not ever abandon them, and will fulfill Christ’s every promise to them.  The choosing of Matthias is the infant Church’s whimper, the promise of God that the full-throated wail of Pentecost is soon to follow.  Thanks be to God!

Collect for the Day
Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-Rev. Nick Jordan

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A Subscription Fix

Frustrated that you haven’t yet been able to subscribe to us with the existing options?  You’re not alone.  From the newly modified “How to Subscribe” page:

1a.) Some people have been having issues with using WordPress’ built-in email service.  If this is you, you can use an outside service like Feed My Inbox.  To use that particular service, click this link to their site, enter “blogasc.wordpress.com/feed/” in the top box and then your email address in the bottom box.  No account creation is necessary and there is no cost.  They will send a confirmation email to the address you provide, which you can click through, and you’ll be signed up within a couple minutes.

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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Collect for the Day
O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Matthew 5:38-48

Message: “Loving the One You’re With” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
Follow this link to the sermon audio.

Bonus material:
If you’re trying to recall the book referenced and recommended in Steve’s sermon, it’s…

Click the image to check current prices at various booksellers

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Martin Luther (d. 1546)

You might notice from this post that the Church (or certain corners of the Church) calendar recognizes Luther today, not on his birth date, but on his death date, and this is key.  (It’s why I picked an picture of an older Luther for this post.)  As Jesus puts it in Mark 12, in responding to the Sadducees’ skepticism about the resurrection of the dead, “[H]ave you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”  For those who remember the lives of the saints, the day of death is the day of birth into everlasting life.

As for Luther in particular, he had a number of famous acts in life, all adding up to his becoming one of the most important founders of the Protestant Reformation.  As a believer, he truly lived into the theological anthropology which he proclaimed, that we as Christians are simultaneously saints and sinners.

Alongside brilliant theological writings, fierce preaching, an intensely Christ-centered prayer life (including a sacramental view of reality so deep that he once joyously declared that God was present to him even in his bowl of pea soup), and a pastor’s heart for the people he served, Luther also was well-known for his delight in “earthy” (i.e., crude) humor.  That’s not to say that telling crude jokes is a mark of sainthood.  Rather, Luther was a saint who proclaimed in his life and his teaching that the body is God’s good creation and that the body and this life are to be enjoyed, if we truly want to worship and glorify God.

The Collect for the Day
O God, our refuge and our strength: you raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your Church in the light of your Word. Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

============================================
Want to learn more about Luther?  Wikipedia can tell you some of the good and some of the bad.  The classic full-length yet still accessible biography, now at over 60 years in continuous print, is Roland H. Bainton’s Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.

Want more on Luther’s theology?  John Wesley (one of the founders of Methodism) had a famously life-changing divine encounter at Aldersgate during a public reading of Luther’s very brief “Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.”  A longer but still fairly brief work is “Concerning Christian Liberty” (alternately known as “On the Freedom of a Christian” or “On the Freedom of a Christian Man”).  And from there, if you want to read more Luther, his writings are next-to-endless, many of them available online for free.

-by Nick Jordan, w/ props to Dr. David C. Steinmetz for the true tale of the sacramental pea soup

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Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Collect of the Day
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ezekiel 36:24-30
Matthew 6:25-30

Greeting and Testimony: Pastor Lambert Kalisa (St. Paul’s Cathedral, Butare, Rwanda); Florence Mukakabano

Sermon: Bishop Nathan Gasatura (Butare Diocese, Rwanda)

  • Sermon audio available for first service here.
  • Sermon audio available for second service here.

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The best laid plans

I’m a planner. I like to know what my day, my weekend, my month holds well in advance. Which is not to say that I’m not adventurous, just that I like to be able to anticipate my adventures.  Spontaneity sounds like a fantastic concept, but it’s just not for me. I’m also a dangerous combination of procrastinator and deadline-obsessor: I naturally leave things until the last minute, but I am compulsive about getting them done on time. Thankfully, I thrive on the pressure that combination creates.

But if you’ve seen me lately, you know that I’m living with an unplannable adventure in my near future.

The natural procrastinator in me wants to leave all that I have to do until the last possible minute; this tendency explains why I have twice in the past gone into labor without having packed my hospital bag. The deadline-meeter in me wants to know when I absolutely have to be ready because, obsessive as I am, packing those bags while I was in labor felt like some sort of failure each time—I didn’t plan ahead quite enough to meet that deadline! Unfortunately, due dates—or more accurately, childbirth dates—don’t function quite like deadlines.

“The best laid plans of mice and men/Often go awry,” wrote Robert Burns. I have had some occasion to learn about the frailty of my plans in this past decade.

Just over ten years ago, my freshly-married twenty-one year old self had big ideas about what my future life would look like. Career plans, family plans, plans for my husband—I had all sorts of goals and deadlines and plans. Suffice it to say that there isn’t much in my life ten years later that looks like what I imagined. Perhaps the most obvious place in which I’ve learned how my plans pale in comparison to those of the Master Planner is in the life and death of my daughter, Eliza.

(Though it’s been two years, it still surprises me sometimes when I learn that someone who seems to have been at All Saints forever doesn’t know Eliza’s story. Two years is longer than I realize, especially in a fast-growing congregation like ours. Anyhow, if you find yourself wondering to what I’m referring, you can read the whole story here: http://dixiejax.blogspot.com.)

Nothing—and I mean nothing—in Eliza’s life went as “planned,” not from day one. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord” in Jeremiah 29. I spent much of Eliza’s life wishing that I, too, knew the plans He had for me and for my daughter. I needed a deadline in order to procrastinate effectively and yet manage to accomplish all I needed to in the time I had with her: take all the right photographs, sacrifice enough sleepless nights, visit all the right people with Eliza in tow. But deaths, like births, most often carry their own deadlines that even committed planners like me can’t anticipate. “But little Mouse, you are not alone,/In proving foresight may be vain:/The best laid plans of mice and men/Often go awry,/And leave us nothing but grief and pain/In place of promised joy!”

I’m thankful to say that in spite of myself I managed to learn quite a bit about giving up control and plans in the nearly three years God gave Eliza to me. I still fail, however—daily, even—to remember that God’s plan is perfect and infallible…and largely inaccessible to me. But as my next big “deadline” approaches—that is, my March 17 due date—and as people ask me what my plans are for my children’s ministry work or maternity leave or any number of other things for which I would normally be planning compulsively, I’m finding freedom in my ability to say I’m not sure. I don’t know what to expect, or when, or how. But I know that God has plans for my “welfare, and not for evil, to give [me] a future and a hope.” I have found a kind of peace in realizing that just as I could not have planned or prepared for one bit of Eliza’s life or death, nor can I anticipate what I need to do to be prepared for her little sister’s life, either. God has that part under control, and my job is to trust His control and give up mine. For a control addict like me, that hasn’t been an easy lesson to learn, and I’m far from finished with the process. But I’m grateful for the weight off my shoulders every time I manage to give up a little more, to plan and obsess a little less. For me, at least, pregnancy is a good object lesson in our powerlessness: follow these few simple rules (vitamins, doctor visits, healthy foods) and wait. Wait on God’s perfect timing and God’s perfect plan. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who could benefit from applying that advice to many parts of my life.

[N.B. Just in case you parents were getting worried, fret not: I’m completely on top of my planning for your children’s programs! I may not know the details of when and how and what exactly to expect, but I am aware that I’m in for a change no matter what, and that pretty soon. And given the tendency for my children to arrive early, I’ve set myself the artificial deadline of March 1 to have all of my planning for children’s ministry ready, just in case. After all, I do believe I can trust and still do my best to be prepared…now off to pack that hospital bag.]

-Daniele Jackson

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